Apple HomePod reviews: is it worth it?

Critics praise the speaker’s sound quality but is it a match for Amazon Echo?

Apple HomePod
The HomePod uses Apple's Siri voice assistant
(Image credit: Apple)

Now that Apple’s much hyped iPhone X smartphone has been released, fans have turned their attention to the company's latest product.

The Cupertino-based company is determined to catch up with Amazon and Google, which dominate the smart speaker market, with the launch of its new HomePod.

The HomePod, which boasts a premium design and voice-activated controls, is Apple's first attempt at building a smart speaker. It doesn’t come cheap, though, as the device will cost significantly more than its rivals.

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Here’s everything we know so far:

Reviews

Apple has taken “its own sweet time” to enter the competitive smart speaker market, says What Hi-Fi?, but being late is fine “if you’re the life and soul when you arrive”.

The HomePod is just that, according to the magazine. The new Apple speaker is “great at honing in on and delivering the essence of everything you play through it”, delivering deep bass notes without compromising on clarity.

The device can be controlled through the Siri voice assistant, and there are also “rudimentary” touch controls, says The Daily Telegraph.

Siri works seamlessly with the Apple Music streaming service, allowing you to select songs using voice commands and to ask for information about certain albums and artists, the newspaper adds. Apple Music also creates “more interesting playlists” than its rivals, the Amazon Echo and Google Home.

The HomePod is easy to set up, says Expert Reviews. All you have to do is plug the device into a power socket and hold your phone next to it. You don’t even need to type in your Wi-Fi password, as the HomePod copies the settings from your iPhone.

All the same, says The Verge, “Siri has been behind its competitors for some time now and the HomePod doesn’t move it forward in any notable way”.

For instance, Siri is unable to recognise different voices, meaning “anyone can ask the HomePod to send or read your text messages”, says the website. This could be particularly annoying for families with young children, who could use Siri to send messages without permission.

The HomePod “is not perfect”, What Hi-Fi? concludes, but its flaws are small and “there’s every chance that you won’t bump up against any of them at all”.

Price, availability and release

Orders are now open on Apple’s website, with prices starting at £319. This makes the product almost £180 more expensive than its key rival, the Amazon Echo Plus, and £190 more expensive than the Google Home.

Google’s range-topping Home Max is the only device that surpasses the HomePod’s price in the smart speaker market. It’s only available in the US and costs $399, which is $49 more than the HomePod’s stateside price of $350.

Design

The HomePod has a cylindrical design similar to the Google Home and Amazon’s Echo smart speakers, says Mac World. The device is “under seven inches tall” and features a “mesh fabric” that covers most of it.

At the top of the device is a touch sensitive panel used to control the speaker, the website says. The panel displays a multicoloured waveform when users activate Apple’s personal assistant Siri.

The speaker’s proportions are a “bit squat compared to Amazon and Google’s more slender equivalents”, the site adds, but it still has a “meticulous design” that’s “comfortably Apple”.

Only two colours are available – white and space grey.

Features

The HomePod is a wireless smart speaker that can be controlled using Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, says Tech Radar. Apple Music will be the device’s primary streaming service, but Spotify can play music on the speaker using Apple’s wireless AirPlay connection.

You can control other connected devices in the home through the HomePod, such as smart lights and power sockets, the website says. Plus, you can pair the device to an Apple TV or iPod that’s on the same wi-fi network as the speaker.

While there’s no iPhone-style screen on the HomePod, you can send messages to friends or family using Siri, according to The Daily Telegraph. Simply dictate your text to the onboard assistant and tell it to send the message. Apple’s iMassage and WhatsApp will be supported at launch, the newspaper says. Other chat apps will also join the roster in the near future.

Multi-room playback, which allows you to listen to the same song on several HomePods throughout your home, is available as standard. If you buy two speakers, you can connect them wirelessly to form a stereo pair.

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